What Children Can Show Us About Play and the FISH! Philosophy

Published On: November 9, 2023Categories: Blog

It’s not controversial to say that play is crucial to the development of children – it’s science! When children play, they learn so many important life skills that not only help the brain grow properly, but play a massive role in a person’s success as a grown-up adult.

As children develop, they use play to practice creating and understanding rules, respecting the boundaries and emotional needs of others, cause and effect, teamwork, and so much more – and as they play, they reinforce neural pathways and connections that build these skills and traits in the long term.

And yet, whenever we teach the FISH! Philosophy, people tell us that the pillar of Play is one of the hardest parts for them to grasp. As adults, we’re no strangers to having fun, but the concept of Play – that unstructured space for exploration, creative thinking, and experimentation with our peers – often gets left behind with age.

But it doesn’t need to. All we need to do to relearn our sense of Play is to pay attention to how children Play and why – and integrate that into our own personal and professional lives.

It’s never too late to learn and grow

Have you heard the term neuroplasticity? Even if you haven’t, you likely know the concept: our brain is wired with neural pathways, and as we practice new skills and learn new concepts, those neural pathways are rewired and reinforced.

Now, the issue is that most of us believe that neuroplasticity largely ends as we age out of childhood – we know that our brains are receptive to new information and are capable of being rewired easily when we’re kids, but then, well… as the saying goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” – but wait, that’s not the case!

There is a kernel of truth here; our neural pathways are the most malleable during childhood. But that doesn’t mean that the ability to learn and grow goes away entirely as we age – and in fact, the more we recognize that we have the capability to learn, the more our brains will be able to accept new information.

Let Play be its own motivator 

It sounds like an oxymoron, but children put a lot of work into playing – they think about play all day, they try to schedule their lives around finding time to play, and they build relationships and friendships solely around those they feel are the best play partners. For kids, playtime is its own reward, and that enthusiasm allows them to learn from their play most effectively.

Conversely, adults are often motivated by outside or material factors –  money, promotions, approval, etc – especially in the workplace. But studies have shown that when it comes to creative thinking and problem-solving that requires expansive thinking, larger material rewards cease to provide nearly as much motivation.

So to properly motivate adults to practice Play, that motivation has to be something that’s born out of the act of Playing – such as the increased autonomy that comes with critical thinking, the pride associated with learning a new skill, and the experience of seeing their creative ideas lead to improved workplace outcomes.

Practice experimentation

What is Play if not experimentation? Every time a child plays, they’re testing to see what happens. Think of a child climbing a jungle gym: they may fall down on the first try, but the next time they go at it a little bit differently, until they finally learn what works.

Even “bad” Play is valid experimentation: remember that kid growing up who’d constantly change the rules of the game to ensure he always won? Each rule change was a test of the outcomes – and let’s be honest, he probably also learned that if he did this, nobody would play with him anymore!

As adults, we so often fall into routines – daily schedules, repeated processes, the same tasks in and out – and never build in any time for experimentation. But this keeps us from learning and growing! Instead, we should practice making space for experimenting with new ideas – start small, assess the outcomes, and change your approach if things don’t work how you hope. This is how we as adults continue to learn, and how workplaces can find those killer ideas that separate them from the competition.

Let Play come naturally

Good Play can’t be forced. As a child, you never had much fun or learned that much when you were forced into particular “Play” experiences, right? At least, not as much as when you naturally played in the way (and with the people) you wanted to, and the same is true for adults.

Yes, as adults with busy lives and schedules we may need to put more effort into practicing Play than we did as a child, but if it starts to become too structured or too scheduled, it loses the intended impact.

In a workplace, Play isn’t successful when you force everyone to do 1 hour of “Free thinking” a day. Rather, Play is successful when your culture supports it: when every worker feels encouraged to share their novel ideas, when leadership is willing to let a meeting go long if people start brainstorming, if experimentation is rewarded rather than punished.

If you cultivate an office culture that promotes Play, there’s no limit to how powerful your workplace can become!

Ideas to Reflect On:

  • What does “Play” mean to you as an adult? Is it just setting aside time for hobbies, or does it mean actively taking time for free-thinking and experimentation?
  • What would motivate you most effectively to “think big” for your job? More money, or more autonomy?
  • How is outside-the-box thinking treated in your workplace? Is it encouraged, or shut down? What’s one thing your organization can do to nurture a sense of Play?

Want to Implement FISH! in your organization?

Are you a leader?  Do you train others?  Do you want others to be leaders?

Charthouse Learning, the creator of the world-famous, award-winning, FISH! film is offering an in-person, 2-day workshop, interactive Train-the-Trainer lead by our Senior Trainer.

During our time together you’ll learn how to:

  • Share the motivation and foundation of FISH!
  • Introduce the FISH! film with the four practices.
  • Present the invitation to apply the practices in everyday interaction with others.
  • Build a sustainability and reinforcement program to transform the culture.
  • Pick up tips from other FISH! Philosophers and develop a strategy to embed the practices into the DNA of your culture.
  • Create an energized organization that is the “first choice” for employees, faculty, staff, leaders, and customers.

Plus, you will learn how to create a workplace where people choose to “be and bring” their best self everywhere, every day.

At the FISH! Train the Trainer you will:

  • Dive Deep: Discover The FISH! Philosophy – full of “A-ha!” takeaways and perspective-shifting realizations.
  • Transform: Make the four FISH! practices – Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude – an essential part of your professional and personal skill set.
  • Discover: Learn practical ways to apply the FISH! practices to improve teamwork, service, leadership, retention and performance.
  • Develop: Brainstorm strategies to embed The FISH! Philosophy into the DNA of your culture, strengthening your mission, vision and values.
  • Collaborate: Learn and laugh with like-minded folks from across the globe.

Click Here for More FISH! Train the Trainer Information

FISH! Starter Kit

The first step in a successful FISH! journey is a remarkable introduction. A FISH! Philosophy kickoff event:

  • Inspires people to find the joy they have been missing at work.
  • Teaches four powerful skills you can use immediately for team and personal success.
  • Unites team members to accomplish any goal.
  • Is incredibly fun . . . and people learn more when they have a good time!

The FISH! Starter Kit provides all the tools you need to plan and lead a great kickoff.

Click Here for More FISH! Starter Kit Information

Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or info@charthouse.com to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

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